Rybak outlines economic agenda with global message

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 25, 2009 - 9:26 PM

The mayor promoted Minneapolis' job growth and disclosed his plan to speak in China on high-tech business.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak promoted his economic agenda for the city and his travel plans Wednesday in his annual State of the City address.

Speaking at the nearly completed North Side headquarters of a medical products manufacturer, Rybak disclosed that he's heading to Beijing in May at the invitation of the Chinese government to discuss development of high-tech enterprises and to promote the city.

Rybak's overview of his economic policies dominated his 45-minute annual summary of the city's condition. The theme of creating jobs by tapping into a global economy while encouraging homegrown companies could provide a handy theme if Rybak runs for governor next year. But he said afterward that while drafting his thoughts, "I didn't think for one frigging minute about running for governor."

Rybak said the city's job-training and placement efforts have secured jobs for 10,000 workers since 2002 and helped result in a comparatively low unemployment rate of 7.1 percent. In February, the city's rate was below those of Hennepin County, the metro area, the state and the nation, according to government statistics.

He said the city should continue to encourage homegrown businesses, especially along commercial arteries where it has made substantial investments. He said the city also has encouraged growth in medical research in the region.

Rybak also said the city needs to tap more into the global economy, leveraging the efforts of local businesses like RSP Architects, with substantial contracts abroad.

"Minneapolis is a global city, and it has to start acting like one," Rybak said, speaking at the new North American headquarters of Coloplast, a Danish-owned medical technology company.

Spokesman Jeremy Hanson said the mayor's China trip grew out of a visit to the Minneapolis sesquicentennial by representatives of the city of Harbin, a sister city and the country's northernmost major city. Hanson said Rybak will nurture that tie, speak from a mayoral perspective on building a strong economy and an educated workforce, and meet with government and business leaders to promote Minneapolis as a destination for leisure travel and technical studies.

Rybak is scheduled to travel with Bill Deef, international relations vice president for Meet Minneapolis, the mostly city-funded private organization that promotes Minneapolis as a destination. Hanson said the trip's cost hasn't been determined. Rybak leaves the day after he seeks DFL endorsement for another term on May 16, and Hanson said he is expected to be gone at least a week.

Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438

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